November 2006

Spring Training and more

An article in the Arizona Republic came out today that says the Dodgers’ continued talks with the city of Glendale are picking up. The story is pretty much accurrate and there should be more information tomorrow coming from the us. Beyond that, unfortunately there’s not much I can tell you right now but I didn’t want to ignore the obvious.

Other good reading for today is Jill Painter’s feature on Don Newcombe in the Daily News. The story has a quote that refers to him as a living legend and it’s the perfect description for him. One of my most prized photos from my time at the Dodgers is a shot of me as an intern in 1995, standing beside a World Series trophy while shaking Newk’s hand, which completely dwarfed mine. I consider it an honor to know him and for any of you who have met him, you probably agree.

The L.A. Times has a good online Q&A between Steve Henson and…himself. It’s actually theoretical questions he poses and does his best to answer them for the readers, and it’s only available online, not in the actual paper. Obviously this is one of the things the Times is trying to do to enhance their coverage and along those lines, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed Jerry Crowe’s new Page 2 features called the Crowe’s Nest. Today’s was about the guy in the Stanford band who got run over during "the play" against Cal, but they’ve ranged in subjects dramatically and have all been really interesting reads.

I liked one fan’s idea of a contest for the Top 10 prospects in the organization, but I’m afraid that on something so subjective, there isn’t really a right or wrong answer. While I definitely think you guys should debate those players’ value here, I’m not sure that it’s fair to award someone a prize for thinking the most like Baseball America.

And a final thought on Spring Training in response to one of the comments on yesterday’s post. All fans should certainly know that the organization and the McCourts truly do understand the history and tradition that goes along with Vero Beach and Dodgertown. I’ve never met anyone who visited there and didn’t immediately understand the importance and value of those things. As die-hard fans, you should rest assured that serious consideration is put into every decision made here with the ultimate goals remaining the same – championship baseball year in and year out; the best fan experience in all of sports; and a renewed commitment to the community here in Los Angeles. If we reach all of those goals, I truly believe that every Dodger fan – both inside the front office and in the stands – will be happy in the long run.

The GM Meetings

First off – NL Rookie of the Year voting is in and three Dodgers were among the top nine vote-getters. Andre Ethier tied for fifth, Takashi Saito was tied for seventh and Russell Martin finished ninth. Our sincere congrats go out to all the people who signed them, developed them, coached them, marketed them, publicized them and helped them attain these honors. Balloting can be found here.

As most of you know, the GM meetings start today in Florida and are a precursor to the madness that is the Hot Stove League. While all GMs have been in touch with each other and players’ agents throughout the past few weeks, getting them all in one place makes a huge difference in moving the process along. It also coincides with the start of teams being able to throw dollar figures at free agents who weren’t their own, so the rumor mill really picks up here. But, don’t expect a ton of guys to sign in the first week – there’s no incentive to going early, so they all try to wait it out and see how the market plays out.

This event is not covered by the media in the same way that the Winter Meetings are, though there are definitely reporters who go out there to write about it. The real show comes Dec. 4-8, when the lobby of our hotel in Orlando becomes a place for impromptu press conferences by player agents while the team execs huddle away in their suites upstairs. It’s quite possibly the most exciting and most boring four days of the winter, as there’s a lot of rumors, a lot of standing around and of course at times, some major announcements.

We also have our PR meetings at that time, where we get together with our counterparts around the league and discuss the best practices of each teams and the issues facing the industry.

As a department, we’re currently putting together the 2007 media guide, which obviously takes up the bulk of the winter time. If any of you have copies and have ideas for new things that you’d like to see included, please pass them along. While I can’t guarantee they’ll be in there next year, I’m interested to know what you’d like to see. It’s become far more than a media guide and actually, we’ll probably start calling it an Information Guide, as other teams have done, because it’s not only the media who uses this.

The morning after…

Well, we’ve all had a little bit of time to let all this settle and read the morning coverage from around the country. Bill Plunkett, who originally wrote that J.D. was staying back in September, had this to say in the OC Register. In the Daily News, Tony Jackson gives his version of the story while the L.A. Times had two articles – one news story by Bill Shaikin and an opinion piece from Bill Plaschke. Even a writer in Philadelphia weighed in on the situation. Other stories include the Riverside Press Enterprise and dodgers.com.

As for me, I’ve obviously followed the coverage quite a bit. It’s certainly interesting to hear everyone’s take and I really got a kick out of one caller last night on AM 570 saying that he read about it on the Inside the Dodgers blog. We’ve certainly tried to be the very first place where you can get Dodger news and hopefully some of you were the first to know about this yesterday because you’ve been keeping up with the front office blog throughout the winter.

Having had some time for the news to settle, I think it’s safe to say that no one over here thinks that J.D. was being unfair in opting out of his contract. That was obviously his right and more power to him and his agent if they can get more money, which they probably know they can do or they would not have exercised it in the first place.

If anything, I think there’s just some disappointment in how it all went down. Given J.D.’s end of the year comments, it was our belief he’d still be here and that he was very happy. He’s certainly entitled to change his opinion during the month of October and obviously he did. Maybe had there been a heart-to-heart between him and the team before that, things might have been different, but they weren’t, so we move on. I know that Scott Boras likened this situation to us not picking up Eric Gagne’s option, but something tells me he might have been a little bit perturbed if we had been saying all year that we had planned to pick up Eric’s option and then when the time came to actually file the paperwork, we changed our minds.

At the end of the day, we can’t really judge J.D. until we’ve been in his shoes. And I really don’t think there’s a way to judge this transaction until we see the others that follow. Maybe this allows us to get another free agent or trade for someone with a big salary and even bigger talent. Maybe it opens up the door for James Loney (or another young player) to play right field and he outperforms J.D. There’s just no way of knowing, but that’s the fun part about baseball.

We only know one thing for sure – this will certainly make the offseason more interesting.

J.D. Drew opts out

Today we learned from Scott Boras that J.D. Drew has decided to opt out of the final three years of his contract with the Dodgers. This certainly surprised most of us in the organization, given his previous comments to the contrary, but apparently there was a change of heart.

When Bill Plunkett first wrote that J.D. would not be going anywhere, I remember congratulating him on the "big scoop," given that most of us considered it a given that he’d be returning in 2007. Here’s the article in the Orange County Register from Sept. 27:

Drew plans to stay around

DENVER – Going, going…nowhere.

The five-year, $55 million contract J.D. Drew signed with the Dodgers after the 2004 season included an opt- out clause, allowing him to end the relationship after two seasons.

But Drew said he is happy in Los Angeles and has given the clause so little thought he doesn’t even know the specifics of how he would activate it. Drew will have a brief window at the end of the World Series to exercise the opt-out clause.

“I don’t plan on (using) it,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve enjoyed my time living in Los Angeles. That’s what it was there for – to make sure (wife) Sheigh and I didn’t come all the way across the country (from their native Georgia) and get stuck in a situation we didn’t like.”

Drew said the clause has hardly come up in discussions with his agent, Scott Boras, since the original negotiations. He couldn’t imagine any reason for his opinion to change between now and the end of the season, prompting him to use the opt-out option.

“You know what – I don’t think so,” said Drew, who also has a limited no trade clause. “Ultimately it’s my decision, and we’re happy where we’re at. We love our house in Pasadena. My wife is happy. She’s made a lot of friends in our neighborhood and with the other players’ wives. That’s really the thing that was nerve-wracking about it (free agency) for me.

“At some point, you make those commitments and you stick to them.”

Considering his injury history, it’s unlikely Drew could do better on the market this winter than the three years and $33 million the Dodgers have committed to him.

That’s all we know for now, but it’s safe to say he won’t be back in blue in ’06. Keep an eye out on the site for more information in the form of an article from Ken Gurnick.

Oops

I just realized that I never posted the winner of the last contest we had during the season. More than 100 people gave their picks on the NLCS, ALCS and WS and out of all of them, only two people picked the Cardinals to win. Both had the Cardinals beating the Tigers and only one person had the Cards in five games – nephesh1@yahoo.com. So congrats to that person, who will get four baseline seats to a 2007 game. Here were the other choices from the rest of you. We’ll be in touch with the winner shortly and congratulations on being the lone person willing to pick St. Louis.

A few announcements

Popping up on the site soon should be a few announcements. One, we’ve resigned Ramon Martinez for next year, with an option for 2008. I think anyone who watched the team regularly saw how valuable he was because of his versatility and he was also a very positive presence in the clubhouse.

Second, there have been some promotions in the baseball operations department, including Logan White, who is now the Assistant GM, Scouting. Among the other key people in baseball ops whose titles have now changed (and their new titles) are: Vance Lovelace (Special Asst. to the GM), Tim Hallgren (Director, Amateur Scouting), Chris Haydock (Assistant Director, Player Development), Ellen Harrigan (Assistant Director, Baseball Administration), Luchy Guerra (Assistant Director, International Player Development), Bill McLaughlin (Manager, Scouting), Jane Capobianco (Manager, Scouting and Administrative Travel) and Adriana Urzua (Coordinator, Minor League Administration). We’ve also hired Toney Howell, who was with the Brewers as a pro scout, to be a Special Assistant to the GM. Our sincere congrats go out to these people, who have worked very hard and deserve some recognition.

Also, Clayton Kershaw was named the Player of the Year in the Gulf Coast League by Topps and Minor League Baseball while James Loney was named by Topps to the Triple-A All-Star team.

That’s all for now…

More from Mexico

I just got a call this morning from Fernando Valenzuela, who earned his first win of the season over the weekend, pitching 5.1 innings and allowing four hits and two earned runs. And Fernando Jr. homered in the game, so Sr. was pretty excited.

Also, for you NASCAR fans, Derek Lowe has moved into second place in the NASCAR Chase Tracker, where he picked the winners of the final 10 races back in September. Grady Little’s not doing so hot with his picks, but Derek is ahead of guys like Jake Peavy (Padres), Larry Fitzgerald (NFL Cards), Jerry Stackhouse (Mavs), Tom Brady (Pats) and Johnny Damon (Yanks). Follow the "tourney" at the website.

Otherwise, it’s been relatively quiet around here. I even got to swing the golf clubs a little bit on Friday at the inaugural Urban Youth Academy Golf Tournament. They had some serious star power at the event, which was nice to see.

To answer the question about renovations, there has been no formal announcement of anything yet, but any improvements being made will be focused on concessions and parking.  Stay tuned for more info as we get further into the fall and winter.

Finally, if you take the time to vote on dodgers.com polls, please make sure you take the time to vote in the real election tomorrow. No matter what your beliefs are, it’s our job to get out there and keep America running.

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